Jessica Helfand + Ellen McGirt | Audio

S7E10: Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander is president of the Mellon Foundation.

Alexander spent most of her career as a professor before joining the Ford Foundation in 2015 as its director of creativity and free expression. She recalls that Ford Foundation president Darren Walker
plucked me out of the chorus line and said, What we need is not necessarily someone who has been in philanthropy. What we need is someone who comes with discernment and ideas and exposure.

And also, to my eternal gratitude, he said, Wow, chairing African American studies — which I was doing at Yale at the time — because of the way that you interface with the law school, the divinity school, the school of forestry, many, many, many different departments… you're actually running a very complex organization.

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